Raymond Kinsland, icon of Cherokee community and WCU honorary doctorate recipient, passes away at 84

Raymond E. Kinsland (left) receives his honorary doctorate from then-WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo in 2005.

Raymond E. “Ray” Kinsland, an icon of the Cherokee community and recipient of an honorary doctorate from Western Carolina University in 2005, died Thursday, June 13, at the age of 84.

Raised on his family’s dairy farm near Cherokee, Kinsland was a leader in the enterprises of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, most notably as general manager of the Cherokee Boys Club, an organization he helped found, for 53 years. He retired in 2011. Among the many awards he received in recognition of his service to the Cherokee community was being named an honorary member of the Eastern Band and given the Cherokee name Di-sde-li-sgi-a-ni-wi-ni, which translates as “Helper of Young Men.”

Kinsland is recognized at the start of the Cherokee Braves football state championship ring ceremony at Ray Kinsland Stadium on the evening of May 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Cherokee One Feather)

“It’s a very sad day for our tribe,” Cherokee Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a statement. “The passing of Mr. Ray Kinsland marks a day of heartfelt sorrow for me personally and for generations of Cherokees whose lives have been touched by Ray’s contributions to our community. Please remember the Kinsland family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Other honors received by Kinsland include North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a Citizen of the Year award from the Steve Youngdeer American Legion 143, and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Unsung Hero Award. A strong supporter of Cherokee Central Schools and Cherokee athletics, he was known as the “Voice of the Braves,” announcing games for many years and also often driving the bus to away games.

In 2017, the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute, a division of the Cherokee Boys Club, opened to serve as an umbrella organization for the Right Path Adult Leadership Program, the Cherokee Youth Council and the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program.

Kinsland was an alumnus of North Carolina State University and earned a teaching certificate at WCU. He received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at WCU during a commencement ceremony held Aug. 5, 2005. After receiving the doctorate from then-Chancellor John W. Bardo, Kinsland thanked the university community and said it was an honor he would “always cherish and appreciate.”

“We’re often asked about our wishes, hopes and dreams,” he said to the audience in attendance. “My faith is very important to me in my daily living, and my prayers are that each of us will continue to work together to turn our problems into opportunities and solutions. I’m confident that our youth are ready, willing and able to continue the course.”

Visitation is set for 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at Cherokee Central Schools. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 17, at the same location.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to the Ray Kinsland Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 507, Cherokee, N.C. 28719; to the attention of Beth. Those who do send flowers are asked to send living flowers that can be replanted in Kinsland’s memory.

Some information provided courtesy of the Cherokee One Feather